Pay attention, class. Diving into the labyrinthine federal budget is not for the faint-hearted. Geeking out with a calculator and a continuing resolution is hardly any social conservative’s idea of a good time. But I’ve been paying attention for the past year or so to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The $1.5 trillion program is now the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history, and has become an example of how not to do things when it comes to government procurement. Though the F-35 program is now more than 12 years old, it has still not produced a combat-ready jet. In fact, it’s not clear when it will. For those looking for a primer on the program and its problems, I recommend a piece in the current issue of Vanity Fair. Even if you’re a strong national defense guy (as I am), be prepared to read it and weep.
Post Kelo. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Kelo vs. City of New London case said economic development was a good enough reason for the government to seize someone’s property using eminent domain. It was a dark day for private property rights in the United States. That doesn’t mean the fight is over. In Virginia, the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Old Dominion University, empowered by Kelo, seized private property to support ODU’s expansion efforts. But Bob Wilson, who was scheduled to be displaced by the seizure, would not roll over. He hung a banner on the side of his business protesting the city’s actions. The city of Norfolk said the banner was too large and said Wilson had to remove the banner or face a fine of $1,000 per day. Wilson fought back. Last week, the Virginia Supreme Court said Norfolk’s condemnations of property owned by Wilson and others were illegal. The banner case is still pending, but given his success with the condemnation case, I like his chances.
Same sex benefits. The Obama administration said this week that same-sex couples “legally married” in one of the few states that offer such marriages now enjoy the same federal rights as other married couples when it comes to pensions, 401(k)s, health plans, and other employee benefits. That’s true even if they live in states that don't recognize their union, the Labor Department said. According to the Associated Press, “The new guidance is the latest effort by the Obama administration to clarify questions left unanswered after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June which invalidated part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The interpretation is consistent with a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service last month that legally married gay couples can file joint federal tax returns even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.”
Gay juror bounced. In a California anti-trust case involving an AIDS drug, defense attorneys used one of their “peremptory challenges” to remove a homosexual juror. A “peremptory challenge” allows attorneys to eliminate a juror from the jury pool for almost any reason. Plaintiffs are fighting back, saying the juror can’t be removed merely because he’s gay. According to the Associated Press, “The case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals centers on whether Abbott Laboratories broke antitrust laws when it increased the price of its popular and vital AIDS drug Norvir by 400 percent in 2007.” The price increase angered many in the gay community, and Abbott fears (not unreasonably) that a gay jury might be biased.